10 Campaigns That Show How Wieden + Kennedy Impacted Culture in 2018

From Kaepernick to KFC, the indie agency was everywhere this year

Nike's ad featuring Colin Kaepernick was among the most-discussed of 2018. Nike

Advertising is ubiquitous across all media, even as repeated surveys show modern consumers moving away from “traditional” platforms.

But how many of these ads are truly memorable? How many prove the brands’ relevance to contemporary culture and make them stand out to ever-demanding consumers? For Wieden + Kennedy’s clients, the answer is “quite a few.”

The independent shop earned Adweek’s 2018 U.S. Agency of the Year designation not due to its huge budgets or celebrity endorsements (though there were some of those) but rather the variety and overall quality of its work. Even more than that, W+K consistently proved that it could find a place for brands within American culture—be they old or new, established or disruptive, tech or CPG.

The following campaigns demonstrate how W+K rode a creative tailwind and put its stamp on more than simply advertising.

Nike | Dream Crazy
Office: Wieden + Kennedy Portland

A likely candidate for ad of the year, this campaign started with a bare-bones concept to celebrate the 30th anniversary of “Just Do It”: Colin Kaepernick tweeting an image of himself with the copy, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” That single image made everyone in the country lose their collective minds, with supporters praising the brand and critics burning sneakers and destroying socks in protest.

Two days later, the 2-minute ad titled “Dream Crazy” dropped and became another part of the launching pad for the wider “It’s Only Crazy Until You Do It” campaign. Interestingly, the spot aired during the Eagles/Falcons game (Kaepernick’s collusion case against the league is still active) while the agency was still in the mix for the NFL’s ad business, won yesterday by 72andSunny.

In the end, though, the inherent risk of using an embattled athlete appears to have paid off, with analysts determining that the campaign boosted Nike’s market value by a whopping $6 billion.

Bud Light | Dilly Dilly
Office: Wieden + Kennedy New York

This year, the Bud Light account was the Wieden equivalent of a mullet: business in the front, party in the back. The ubiquitous beer was already W+K New York’s largest account–and after the winning Super Bowl campaign, AB InBev consolidated the entirety of the brand’s creative and social work with its lead agency without a review.

But it was the work itself that kept people talking throughout the year. A trio of entertaining Super Bowl ads (including the worst battle speech ever) set the stage in January and February.

Yet, neither the brand nor agency knew that during the game itself, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles would ask his coach, Doug Pederson, about whether or not to run “Philly Philly,” a secret trick play credited with turning the game in their favor that just happened to be named in homage to the W+K team’s Bud catchphrase.

They also couldn’t have foreseen the same slogan being banned at the Masters golf tournament—but Bud Light did have some fun with it.

Overall, though, it was another strong, hilarious and consistent year filled with many varieties of “Dilly Dilly,” all of which poked fun at the beverage elites and focused on the many as opposed to the few.

Ford | Built Ford Proud
Office: Wieden + Kennedy New York

W+K is masterful at breathing new life into historical brands (their KFC work is a good example), and Ford is no exception. Taking the classic “Built Ford Tough” in a fresh direction, the agency cast the always-engaging Bryan Cranston for the automaker’s newest work.

While the agency isn’t the creative lead on the account (that responsibility ultimately fell to BBDO), there is no doubt after this campaign that W+K will continue to put its stamp on the next chapter of the venerable American brand while serving as an “innovation partner.”

OKCupid | DTF
Office: Wieden + Kennedy New York

In attacking the transactional nature of dating, W+K and OKCupid flipped the DTF acronym on its head. Instead of its usual pejorative meaning, the three letters became delightfully engaging alternatives to the pervasive hookup culture.

The playful, brightly colored campaign, running under the tagline “Dating deserves better,” included a range of gems like “down to farmer’s market,” “down to finish my novel” and “down to feel fabulous.”

@zanger doug.zanger@adweek.com Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.
@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.